Sundeep Bhutoria

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

In a dreamland called Santorini

24 June, 2014 Santorini (Greece): I landed at the stunning Santorini Islands (Greece) today evening from London's Gatwick airport. My first visit to the Santorini islands was through low cost airline EasyJet which I availed for the first time. The flight took off around 1:15 am and I'd rate this airlines a ten on ten for its service. I think it is a good airline if you don't mind travelling economy class.
I visited Greece some 17 or 18 years ago when I was at Athens and the scenic Corfu Islands. Santorini Islands, located 200 kilometres from the mainland on the southeast Aegian Sea, has, of late, become a holiday destination competing with southern France and Spain.
When I landed in Santorini it reminded me of Seychelles by the smaller-than-expected airport which had only one immigration counter. The girl at the counter had requested everyone to carry their passport in hand and to pass immigration by just showing it. I think since the flight was from London they presumed that only Europeans, who do not need a visa as per Schengen agreement, would would there.
Given my international travel experience, I told the lady that I have an Indian passport. Immediately a supervisor came and checked my Schengen visa and stamped it.
Spread over 73 sq km, Santorini was named after one Saint Irene in the 13th century. It is one of the few places in Europe to have a hot desert climate. It has two seasons, a warm and dry spell from April to October and a rainy and cold season from November to March. Santorini is all about breath taking scenery, natural beauty, sunsets, romance, history, fine dining wineries, local cuisines, boutique hotels, volcanoes and romance.
Once in the islands, one has to let go and allow the Santorini spirit to seep in. It is a soulful experience that can hardly be described in words.
In fact, Santorini hotels were so busy that I couldn't book a room for three nights in the same hotel and had to hop from one hotel to another. Today I checked into a hotel called On The Rocks and tomorrow I am booked for another one called Gold Suites.
The hotel On The Rocks is one-of-its-kind among the countless un-starred small boutique hotels along the sea front. The Room 14 that I checked into was a very quiet, cosy place with a sea view. The hotels dotting the seafront are demarcated by different colours on the ground and stairs, in various shades of Mediterranean greys and blues. The views of a dozen hotels and their occupants could be seen from ours hanging like a balcony above the Aegean.
After checking into the hotel I went to the centrally located Fira area which is the capital of Santorini. Fira offers stunning views and is some 600 zig-zagged steps up from the port. Other options to get up the hill include riding a donkey or a mule which has been a tradition for many years or one can now take the cable car.
Surprisingly, even at 1.30 am, ice-cream parlours, biggest shopping and popcorn stores, to the hundred seater restaurants were all open. My friend Aditya’s research on Santorini was perfect and on his advice we had for dinner at a restaurant called Rissosti and were very happy with the food. 
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